Montessori or “Montesomething”?

We are glad to welcome this week’s featured post by Louise Livingston, Director of Training at the Maria Montessori Institute, where she trains Montessori teachers. She talks about the Maria Montessori School Holland Park which has just opened and gives some tips on how to recognise whether a Montessori school is the real deal or not. 

Due to increasing demand for Montessori education the Maria Montessori School has just opened a new site in Holland Park. So what is Montessori? Some will say ‘that’s where the children are allowed to do exactly as they like’ and others ‘the children have to work all the time.’ The reality is that Montessori is neither of these. However, one can be forgiven for being confused. It is possible to set up a school and call it Montessori even if you don’t have any Montessori trained teachers!

What will you find in this new school?

A place designed for children – the Montessori ‘nursery school’ is called the Children’s House because everything in it is designed to allow children to do things by themselves – all the equipment is child-sized and the activities are laid out in an orderly fashion on low shelves that are easily accessible for the children. The environment is aesthetically pleasing and is meticulously cared for which encourages the children to take care of it too.

Mixed ages – children between the ages of 2 ½ and 6 are grouped together in one class. The younger children learning from watching the older children and the older ones benefiting by helping the younger children. Children helping each other spontaneously. This grouping allows children to develop socially, intellectually and emotionally and is an essential part of any Montessori school.

Independent children – Children choose their activities independently and move from one activity to the next, returning things to the shelf after they have used them. You will experience an atmosphere of calm and see young children concentrating for surprising periods of time and working individually, in groups or with a friend.

Unfettered time – there is no fixed ‘timetable’. You will see children coming together for group activities as the need and desire arises and at other times doing their chosen activities for as long as they like. This aspect of unlimited time is an essential feature of the Montessori approach.

A specially trained adult – the children will be guided by a teacher who is expertly trained in child development, the Montessori approach and observation. She will be observing the capacities and needs of each child and making sure that each one is given new and appropriate challenges as and when they are ready to take them on. You won’t see her interfering until a difficulty arises. At which point she will step in and give just enough help to guide the child back on track.

Children work at their own individual pace – the teacher will show children things to do when they are ready developmentally so that new knowledge is always built on what they already know. Since every activity in the classroom also prepares for a later activity the children move at their own chosen pace, developing skills effortlessly.

Is this what you would like for your child’s start in Life? Or perhaps you would like to become a Montessori teacher yourself. If so, our website (www.mariamontessori.org) has details about both.

Maria Montessori School Holland Park, Kenley Walk Hall, 10 Nottingdale Square, W11  020 7435 3646

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